Is Christianity a competition or a cooperation between Christians? Judaizing teachers troubled the early church by painting the Gentiles as second-rate Christians; they made them question their salvation if they were not circumcised and keeping the law of Moses (Acts 15:1) But Paul wrote in Galatians 5:14-15, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” The faith of Jesus Christ is the basis of our salvation, not fleshly accolades. Following the flesh leads to conceit and envy (Gal. 5:25). The flesh produces a carping attitude that pulls others down to prop up self, but following the Spirit leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:19-23). If we follow the flesh, then, instead of helping one another go to heaven, we will bite, devour, and consume one another.
My brother has recently undertaken the venture of raising hens. We had no chickens growing up, so peculiarities he tells me about their nature have been revelatory to me whereas they might be commonplace to those accustomed to them. He had to separate one of the hens from the others because it had a sore. Evidently, if the red spot of a sore becomes visible to the other chickens, they will keep pecking at it until the injured fowl dies. Can we not see a parallel in human behavior? How does the church respond to someone whose spiritual sore becomes apparent? Are we critical? Do we tear them down or help them? Do we bite and peck at them behind their back? Or do we love them enough to work toward healing their spiritual injury? Galatians 6:1 goes on to command the spiritual to restore the brother overtaken in sin. The word “restore” in the original is the idea of setting a broken bone; careful action must be taken to set erring brothers and sisters straight, to help bear their burdens, all the while considering our own weaknesses (Gal. 6:1-2).
Paul described the church as a body, a living organism with each part cooperating to maintain the health of the whole being, writing, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). If any part of our physical body is hurting, the other parts of the body rush to the aid. The church is the spiritual body of Christ. By one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). The Spirit teaches us in God’s word to, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:15-16). To reach out and help those hurting in sin is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s will; Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again to save us from the terminal disease of sin (Rom. 6:23). Let Christ’s church be distinct from the world in the realm of loving others as ourselves.